It’s official, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the highest grossing box office movie in the US for 2021. The Master of Kung Fu unseats his Marvel Studios compatriot, Black Widow, who previously held the title of highest grossing box office movie in 2021. At the time of this writing, Shang-Chi brought home about $198 million in domestic receipts, fairly far above Black Widow who earned around $184 million domestically. (Though, Black Widow still has a slight edge over Shang-Chi in the international numbers, where he lags almost $30 million behind.) Also, Marvel’s newest Avenger has topped the Box Office each weekend since its release. However, it will almost certainly be unseated by the next Venom movie, Venom Let There Be Carnage.
The new Venom film is eagerly anticipated, especially since leaks from the premiere have suggested that Sony Pictures is taking steps to connect their Marvel Universe to the larger MCU. Only, unlike Shang-Chi, it will have some real competition from the final Daniel Craig film as James Bond, No Time to Die. Also, interestingly, Shang-Chi will still be building on its total box office grosses for another 20 or so days. And, since this film is not available on streaming until November, it’s possible that more than a few folks will want to see it one more time on the glorious big screen.
Still, the path to Shang-Chi becoming the biggest box office grossing movie in 2021 was a complicated one. While Black Widow held the title most the year, it was both a look into the past and simultaneously available on Disney+. Yet, as you know if you read our review, Shang-Chi was also a cultural moment, particularly for folks of Asian-American and Pacific Islander descent.
How High Will the 2021 Box Office Go for Shang-Chi?
Image via Marvel Studios
It seems that Shang-Chi will never be released in China which will undoubtedly hurt its global box office numbers. So far, worldwide, Disney holds five of the top ten spots. And Black Widow still ranks highest at the fifth spot. Still, along with F9, the top three spots are held by films released only in China. Yet, even though Black Widow was on Disney+ it still earned at least $13 million at the box office from its 9th week of release through the present. In fact, it earned more than $1 million in box office receipts during the week of Shang-Chi’s release (and in only 750 theaters). So, it seems as long as a Marvel movie is in theaters, people will show up to see it. Shang-Chi made what Black Widow made over that time just last weekend.
So, it seems that Shang-Chi will easily cross the $200 million domestic mark and could close in on $225 million by the end of it’s 45-day run. If the film ever did hit the Chinese box office, it would likely earn at least $100 million more. (And that’s if it performs on average for Marvel films there, given the Chinese influence in this film it could go even higher.) Yet, the earning power (at least domestically) appears to be waning. On Monday, Shang-Chi fell just short of a $1 million day, the first time that’s happened since its release.
The only other films to present major competition to Shang-Chi are the other two Marvel Studios films and possibly Bond. Still, Shang-Chi will probably take the highest box office gross title for 2021, unless Spider-Man: No Way Home does Star Wars: The Force Awakens numbers during the two weeks of 2021 it will be out.
Who Are the Other Contenders for 2021?
Image via Universal Pictures.
2021 will ultimately be Marvel’s year at the box office, from Black Widow to Shang-Chi to the Sony films. Venom: Let There Be Carnage will (hopefully, for Sony Pictures’ sake) win its opening weekend. Then, so long as it stays a strong second to No Time to Die, it should find its way into the top ten films this year. Other than Bond, maybe Dune could do serious box office numbers, especially if Denis Vileneuve truly delivers a big screen spectacle. Yet, that it will be concurrently streaming on HBOMax is sure to dig into its box office earning potential. And, for Warner Bros., at least, that could be okay so long as HBOMax subscriber numbers keep climbing. They hoped to get 67 million subscribers by the end of the year, and they seem to have already hit that number.
Along with theater exclusivity, the other thing helping Shang-Chi win the highest box office of 2021 is that it had positive buzz and word-of-mouth. Marvel Studios delivered a fun origin story that breaks the MCU origin formula, and this kept people going back to the theater. Those who might have been inclined to wait until it hit Disney+ could have changed their plans based on the reception.
The only film I think poses any chance of unseating Shang-Chi this year is Eternals. It’s a big epic cast that touches on the entire history of the MCU. There are plenty of Big Name Stars™, and they will likely play a big role in the Marvel Universe going forward. However, it’s a big and complex movie, so there are more places where the storytellers could misstep. I am confident that the film will be “good” (your mileage may vary), but I am not convinced that it will win the year.
Shang-Chi is currently in theaters and will hit Disney+ on November 12, 2021.
What do you think? Do you think Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will retain its position as the highest grossing box office winner in 2021? Share your thoughts, theories, and reactions in the comments below.
All box office data via BoxOfficeMojo.com
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he’s loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book “What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More” is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.
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Shang-Chi Highest Grossing Box Office Hit In 2021 Beating Black Widow